British Columbia

No gas tax increase puts Victoria transit plans on hold

The Victoria Regional Transit Commission didn't get the two cent per litre increase to the gas tax it was expecting in Tuesday's provincial budget. It means expansion plans for the system are now on hold and riders could see service reductions.

Regional transit commission was expecting an additional 2 cents per litre in Tuesday's budget

Revenue from city parking will fund free transit passes for Victoria students starting this fall. (CHEK News)

The Victoria Regional Transit Commission didn't get the two-cent-per-litre increase to the gas tax it was expecting in Tuesday's provincial budget.

Now, officials are warning expansion plans for the system will be put on hold and riders could even see service cuts.

VRTC chair Susan Brice says she was surprised the increase wasn't included in the budget.

"The last six months, I've been working closely with the minister of finance and the minister of transportation and infrastructure, ensuring we had all the letters of support from all the municipalities in our area, all of the evidence that they wanted that the community would support this gas tax increase."

The VRTC had been pushing for the increase for years and was making plans for the expansion of the transit system based on the commitment from the province.

The VRTC says it needs more money to maintain current service levels. (Google Maps)

"We were putting in 24,000 extra hours. We were ordering ten more buses," said Brice. "This was really going to be a big push towards improving transit in Victoria. We will put all of those plans on hold."

Greater Victoria has a different transit arrangement than the rest of the province. While other communities split their costs 50/50 with the province, Victoria picks up two-thirds of the cost of running its system.

It's split three ways between revenue from the fare box, property taxes and the gas tax. Of the three revenue options available, the gas tax portion has been frozen for eight years.

The Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure didn't have anyone available for comment, but they did provide a statement.

It says it acknowledges the VRTC's request to increase the fuel tax to pay for the municipalities' share of planned transit service expansions and it remains committed to working with B.C. Transit and the VRTC to ensure there are resources in place to move forward with planned service expansions.

The VRTC will be meeting again, Feb. 28.